Palestinian anger at Israeli refusal to talk to hunger striking inmates

AP  Brennan Linsley

The hunger strike has been led by prominent prisoner and popular Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti, a convicted terrorist who is serving five life sentences for the murder of Israelis during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising.

Barghouti, founder of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and former head of Fatah's armed Tanzim wing, is being kept in solitary confinement at Kishon Prison after being moved from Hadarim Prison.

Qaraqe alleged that their lawyers and relatives were being barred from visiting them.

Some 1,500 Arab terrorists in Israeli prisons were on their third day of a hunger strike Wednesday, as they demanded increased rights, including more visitations and the right to make phone calls from prison.

Some 6,500 Palestinians are now detained by Israel for a range of offenses and alleged crimes.

Of those, 62 are women and 300 are minors.

The officials have also cracked down on the rank-and-file hunger strikers, some of whom are in administration detention without charges or trial, and said they do not negotiated with prisoners.

In addition, a large group of prisoners suspects that the goals Barghouti established do not justify a mass hunger strike - it is unlikely to result in improved prison conditions - and believe that its main objective is to fortify Barghouti's diminished powers and standing among the Palestinian public.

But so far, most of the more than 6,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons have yet to join. The law was upheld by Israel's Supreme Court but drew criticism from the worldwide community and from the medical world, who say force-feeding prisoners against their will is unethical. In the op-ed, Barghouti wrote that he and other terrorist prisoners were being denied rights and were victims of "ill treatment", having been rounded up "arbitrarily" by Israeli authorities.

On Wednesday, a Palestinian rammed a vehicle into a bus stop at a tense junction in the occupied West Bank, wounding one person before soldiers opened fire and killed the assailant, Israel's military said.

Government officials have shown little interest in meeting the prisoners' demands, as Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan has said that prison officials will not negotiate with the striking prisoners.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said that authorities "would not hesitate to implement the law which authorises the force-feeding of detainees".

"Calling Barghouti a "political leader" is like calling Assad a 'pediatrician, ' Netanyahu added". So it now appears that only some 800 Fatah prisoners have followed Barghouti's lead, and some 400 prisoners affiliated with Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine have joined them.

In his note, the paper's public editor apologized for failing to identify Barghouti as a convicted murderer of Israeli Jews and as a member of a terrorist organization after Israeli leaders and U.S. Jewish groups denounced the failure.

The event, titled "International Day of Palestinian Prisoners", was hosted Monday at the main municipal space of the district of Retiro in the southeastern part of the center of the Spanish capital and drew harsh condemnations from representatives of the city's Jewish community, the Libertad daily reported Tuesday.

Some 850,000 Palestinians have been incarcerated since the start of Israel's occupation 50 years ago, Palestinian leaders say.

Barghouti was arrested by Israel in April 2002 and charged in relation to suicide bombings and shooting attacks that claimed the lives of hundreds of Israeli civilians and soldiers, and wounded hundreds more.

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